MRU WSOC coach reflects
By Dan Khavkin, Sports Editor
A historic 2018/2019 season for the Mount Royal Cougars women’s team came to a heartbreaking end for the second straight season in the exact same fashion.
The Cougars clinched fourth place in Canada West with a program-high 20 points, broken down into a 6-6-2 record. MRU went up against UFV Cascade for the ‘play-in’ match on Oct. 25 where history repeated itself.
“The outcome was status-quo to last year,” says team coach Tino Fusco.
MRU managed to even the game late in the half at the 74th minute, sending the playoff game into extra time where nothing was solved. The fate of the Cougars’ season teetered on the results of a penalty kick for the second straight season.
Both teams missed their first penalties but MRU put themselves behind the eight-ball missing their second, while UFV converted on theirs. The Cascade potted the next three goals to the Cougars two. The deciding shot to keep the penalties session going, was at the feet of rookie goalkeeper Rose Hemans.
The transfer from Crystal Palace Ladies had an outstanding U SPORTS debut season, but it came to an abrupt ending when she rattled the crossbar on the do-or-die penalty kick.
Despite the heartbreak, Fusco reflects on this season as a massive success.
“We had a better record, we have better players in our program, we have a young side to the team which I am excited for next year,” he says. “But we talk about doing the little things right and we took a step forward this year, for me, that would be the success I was looking for.”
The Cougars were led by graduating forward Erin Holt who put on an impressive playmaking display in her final season wearing Cougar colors with six assists and added one goal. She also scored the match-tying goal in the playoff game.
Janai Martens lead the scoring with a team high of five goals. Meanwhile, rookie Natalie De Marco totalled two goals and four points in her first season as a Cougar.
Hemans was named to the Canada West all-rookie team and for the second straight year, centre half Quinn Hardstaff was named to the Canada West second all-star team.
According to Fusco, these are the team performances and displays that drive the Cougars to their success.
“We’ve worked hard on our culture the past few seasons… I’m pleased with the players, that’s an area where we are in a good spot,” he says.
“Our goal was always to be better than what we were the year before and is something we ingrained in our athletes, to be better everyday and be better than you were yesterday,” says Fusco. “We don’t have a senior squad so it was about making mistakes and improving from them.”
Fusco is hopeful for next year and says the team should, “just stick with the process. We stay with what we are doing and we feel like we are doing it very well. We’ve added a style of play we like and are looking forward to be moving with it.”